May 2019 Foster Care Special Edition


found that in areas of

abject poverty, teachers

were twice as likely to

leave mid-year or before

their third year of


We know that there are

constant macro systems

being put into place to

combat these numbers

and support teachers,

but what can be done

on a more micro scale.

Let’s look at the aforementioned term self-care: what do we really know about this term, when

should we be using it, and does it actually help?

Compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, vicarious trauma, these are all terms that can

more commonly be used to describe “burnout,” which is usually how we describe a co-worker

who is on the verge of quitting. Burnout comes from many different sources, but one of the main

contributors can be from working trauma-adjacent to students that are greatly impacted by past

or present experiences. And if you are working in a school, affluent or otherwise, you have

students who have experienced trauma. To give you an example, we have all heard of the ACE

study, which collected data from participants to demonstrate the effects of adverse childhood

experiences. The study showed the higher your ACE score, the more likely you were to have

serious medical and emotional issues. A typical response to the ACE score might be a one or a two

for most people. But when looking at another study specific to foster care, it showed that one of

our most vulnerable populations reported that 70% had an ACE score of 5 or more. This of course

is troubling for the youth that are experiencing these traumas, but when focusing on the teachers

and staff that work with them, we are finding that without proper support and self-care they are

up against challenging odds.

What are some of the signs that I might be getting close to burning out? They can at times be very

similar to symptoms that are associated with first-hand trauma: isolation, depression, difficulty

focusing, aggression, anxiety, insomnia, excessive drinking, appetite changes, anger/sadness. It


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